Steinman died at the age of 68, due to pancreatic cancer, three days before the Nobel Committee's announcement of the prize winners. Steinman had undergone four years of treatment for the disease, including experimental therapy based on his discoveries.
“We are obviously devastated by his passing,” said Steinman's son, Adam Steinman, a law professor in Newark, "But it was a real gift that we were able to be here in his final days, and now to celebrate this wonderful accomplishment.”
In 1973, Steinman discovered a new type of cell, the dendritic cell, which plays an essential role in the development of specifically targeted antibodies. Dendritic cells from Steinman's body were extracted and used as an experimental treatments for his own cancer. Researchers believe such techniques may boost the immune system's ability to fight cancer.
Sharing the Prize with him are Jules A. Hoffmann, a professor at the Institute for Molecular Biology in Strasbourg, France, and Bruce A. Beutler, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. The three professors were awarded for discovering the essential workings in the immune system's response to infection.
"I did not anticipate anything like this," said Hoffman. "It's always better that way."
Beutler and Hoffman won the prize for unlocking important secrets involving "innate immunity", a general form of immune defense that recognizes a wide variety of potentially harmful microorganisms. The scientists' discovery of "Toll Receptors" responsible for certain immunities contributed to the development of etanercept, a drug that has been revolutionary in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
The prize is valued at $1.45 million, half of which was shared by Beutler and Hoffmann. The other half was awarded to Steinman.
Photo taken from: http://today.uci.edu/news/images/steinman_p090504_1hr.JPG